Content Marketing/Marketing/Writing

Why You Should Hire a Freelance Writer for Content Marketing

Posted by M. Sharon Baker

I have received several calls in the past few days from callers asking why they should hire a freelance writer and what the benefits are of doing so.

After one call, I created a quick proposal for a prospect to help convince her boss that hiring a freelance writer to help with content marketing was the right way to go.colored pencils in can msb

Here are 9 benefits I mentioned:

  1. While you may hate to write, freelance writers are passionate about writing and love it, which means they skip procrastination, fits and starts, and the constant rewriting that comes when you dislike the task.
  2. They free you up to concentrate on business development, strategy and the many marketing tasks you love to do.
  3. They cost less than hiring a full-time marketing writer. The freelancer writer is an independent contractor paying his or her own taxes.
  4. Veteran freelance writers have a system to produce written materials and adhere to a project schedule with little hand holding. Many can also manage your project.
  5. Freelance writers bring a fresh outside perspective, one that helps them think more like your audience. They aren’t steeped in your internal jargon or tied to ingrained marketing approaches.
  6. Freelance writers have an uncanny ability to understand, reach and engage audiences with their writing so they can help you better target your audience.
  7. Because they work with multiple clients, a veteran freelance writer brings knowledge gained at other firms and best practices, which can move your company forward faster. They can suggest ideas, improvements and channels that make your marketing materials stand out and demand attention.
  8. Finding a writer with industry expertise who is also knowledgeable about content marketing gives you a leg up on your competition. You don’t have to spend as much time learning about the new ways of marketing or spend as much time bringing the writer up to speed on your industry.
  9. Freelance Writers help you avoid falling behind. There is a cost when you do nothing: Marketing is changing rapidly. Today, B2B customers are two-thirds through the buying cycle before they engage a salesperson. That means they are doing research and seeking answers to questions before they are on your radar screen. Without fresh, helpful and thought-leadership content, you are falling behind your competition and losing customers.

Here’s a shorter answer: Hiring a freelance writer is a great way to create a steady stream of content on a variety of topics on a timely basis without having to add a full-time employee.

Can you think of other benefits of hiring freelance writers? Please share them in the comments.

Content Marketing

Beware: Freelance Writers Are NOT Content Strategists

Posted by M. Sharon Baker

Lately, I’ve stumbled across several freelance writers trying to recast themselves as content strategists.

To me the trend is disturbing and shows a lack of understanding of what a content strategist is and does.

Some writers may have been unduly influenced by several content marketing gurus, one of which suggested in 2009 that journalists should consider taking on that title. Only the advice was premature, and shows a lack of understanding of the job title.stopsign1

Additionally many from the traditional publishing world are co-opting the content strategist title, using it to mean they know how to creating engaging content that many people like to share on social media. But sharing doesn’t equate to sales.

The Content Marketing Institute issued an apology recently for its previous inability to distinguish content marketing and content strategy, and is making a large effort to educate marketers and others about content strategy and strategists and how it is different but related to content marketing.

Here’s the problem: Writers are trying to show that they offer more than just a commodity service, and are trying to show ways they can add value.

Here’s what one veteran writer advocating that writers should call themselves strategists said,

“If writers are:

  • Planning blog post topics
  • Setting the blog schedule
  • Designing the social media campaign to socialize posts
  • Writing blog posts
  • Utilizing SEO Keywords
  • Finding photos

Then you’re basically running every aspect of the blog for the client (so) that tag is appropriate.”

Editorial Strategist or Blog Content Manager More Appropriate 

These writers don’t understand that Content Marketing is not just using your blog to bring traffic in. They are operating as Blog Content Managers, not content strategists.

Maybe they should call themselves Editorial Strategists.

Creating content and directing content strategy are two related but very different disciplines, with “strategist” encompassing knowledge of measurement, nurturing, lead generation, marketing automation and data analytics in addition to content creation and content marketing.

Content Strategy: Mapping Prospects to Content, Measuring Success

Content Strategists create the strategy and plan on how to convert an audience into customers using many forms of content. They do not simply measure their success based upon traffic to their blog posts or social media accounts, which is what many writers are offering.

Real content strategists, working with the marketing team, create buyer personas through interviews with actual company customers. They don’t just ask company executives who the company’s target audience is.

The content strategist then creates buyer personas, which can encompass many different points of view and decision-making power. The Content Strategist also creates a plan on how to reach these different prospects based upon where they might be in the buying process, a process she’s hammered out and confirmed with the sales team.

Based upon information she’s gleaned from sales and customers, she then creates content for the different personas and different buying stages, using different avenues of content distribution. She understands where her prospects look for content and knows what kind of content they are looking for.

She has also learned how many pieces of content they need to consume before a prospect becomes a sales qualified lead, and she knows how to analyze data from a marketing automation system if the company she’s working for uses one.

The Content Strategist also knows that the process is fluid and dynamic, and understands that content and buyer personas may change and thus her strategy and execution must be flexible and able to change as the market does.

As you can see, this content strategist does a lot more than just manage a blog and social media distribution of the blog posts.

How do you know whether your writer is also a content strategist? Ask him what his process is for developing buyer personas, and how he measures success of his content. If he spouts social media shares as his only metric, then you know he isn’t a content strategist.

I’ll concede that some writers may have developed marketing chops and have the experience to call themselves content strategists. But I’m sure that only fits less than 1 percent of all freelance writers.

Have you run into writers assuming the content strategist title? Did they have any more experience than simply running a blog? How did you verify their claims?

Content Marketing/Storytelling/Writing

B2B Storytelling Research for Content Marketing

Posted by M. Sharon Baker

After I started wandering around the web looking for good examples of B2B storytelling, I found a few resources that required a deep dive.

Yes, I got diverted.

One is a conversation with B2B content strategist Ardath Albee* of Marketing Interactions where I asked her for a good example of hers on B2B Storytelling since she’s among the industry’s experts. She gave me a good example and I’m waiting for her to answer a few questions before I write a post on it.

Madetostick book coverAnother is a book I stumbled upon when I followed a Carol Tice tweet that led me to The Word Chef – who has a concept I thought of using when I first started freelancing since my last name is Baker, but discarded thinking it was too corny. (For her, it works!)  On Tea Silvestre’s Word Chef blog, she has a list of 30 marketing books she recommends, and I jumped at the chance to read Made to Stick when I learned my library had a copy.

How do you create ideas that stick is the question answered by brothers Chip and Dan Heath in their book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.

They suggest using a simple principle to create sticky ideas:

Create simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional stories.

success clip made to stick

I promise to write a review post, and I’ll recommend every content marketer, especially B2B marketers, read it to improve or start their storytelling.

I also found an interesting post by Phil Johnson on Forbes called Not Just for Bedtime, Marketers Corner the Market on Storytelling.

In it, Johnson has three tips on how corporate marketers can adopt storytelling but not confuse it with marketing. His tips echo the Made to Stick principles:

  • If your story does not reveal something personal and unknown about the person or brand, it’s going to be boring.
  • If your story does not tap into a specific emotion – whether it be fear, desire, anger, or happiness – it will not move people to action.
  • If your story does not take people on a journey where there is a transformation between the beginning, middle, and the end, it’s not a story.

I also want to interview the creative artists at 321 FastDraw, who draw wonderful stories – they call them Telestrations – on white boards. I discovered their wonderful videos when writing stories on Seattle and Microsoft for the Kaufmann Foundation’s entrepreneurial site ID8 Nation.

 Tell me: Do you have any great storytelling tips or resources for marketers that I should check out as part of my research? I’d love to explore more.

*Full Disclosure: Ardath is a client.

Content Marketing/Journalism/Writing

Why B2B Marketers Hire Journalists to Create Content

Posted by M. Sharon Baker
Why B2B Marketers Hire Journalists to Create Content

(I’m busy gathering additional samples of good B2B content since story telling is top of mind for many marketers. In the meantime, I was asked why journalists are being touted as good hires to create content. Here’s my take.)

A number of content marketing experts are telling corporations to hire experienced journalists, which they sometimes call brand journalists, (a term that causes me to wince – here’s why) to create a lot of the content needed for lead nurturing programs, web site copy, and other marketing materials.

NRMPR-book_aThese experts include David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR, Joe Pulizzi, author of Epic Content Marketing and co-author of Get Content Get Customers, and Ann Handley, co-author of Content Rules.

Businesses of any size looking to create great content have a simple solution: hire a journalist says Scott.

Adds Pulizzi:

 Let’s face it: Marketers are busy focusing on driving demand for their products. It’s difficult to step back and think about products from the customer’s informational perspective. But that’s just what journalists’ do.

Why journalists, you may ask. And don’t all of them work for newspapers or magazines, you may wonder.

Many journalists lost their jobs during the recession, others saw what was happening and left on their own. From 2000 to 2010, the last time I looked, 66,000 journalists had lost their jobs due to layoffs. Here’s a sampling of the 30,000 or so that lost their jobs in the three years of 2000 to 2003, which I mentioned in my first blog post. So there are a lot of journalists looking for work.

Scott, Pulizzi and Handley, who previously was a journalist, recognize that journalists possess the skills and training that allow them to create interesting, compelling content effortlessly.

content rules book cover

17 Reasons Marketers Should Hire Journalists


  • Know how to tell a compelling story with tension
  • Are great listeners and superior interviewers
  • Are quick studies and critical thinkers
  • Are resourceful and full of creative content ideas
  • Know how to research and find things quickly

They also:

  • Are experts at dealing with deadlines
  • Easily juggle multiple tasks
  • Think and organize before they write
  • Use snappy, active words
  • Keep themselves out of their writing

Get Content cover


And, they:

  • Write tight
  • Write conversationally
  • Shun adjectives, puffery and jargon
  • Write short sentences moving readers along
  • Often can summarize a story in a great headline
  • Know how to change writing styles to match different audiences and media types
  • Provide an outsider’s view of your company


The ability to write tight, get to the point quickly and keep things simple are concepts every corporation needs, whether they are selling a product, building a brand or looking for leads. Journalists are a good match to help busy marketers that need to focus on more strategic aspects of their jobs.


What traits am I missing? Are there other reasons for hiring a journalist for B2B content creation?